By Warren Shoulberg
The Conran Shop has moved downtown--and downstairs too.
The iconic home furnishings store--a cornerstone of contemporary design and often the launch point of important new products--is marking its second decade in the United States with an entirely new store in an entirely new location.
But it's still very much Terence Conran's place.
This month the Conran Shop will have its official grand opening on the lower level--it's too nice to be called a basement--of the equally-as-iconic ABC Home store on Broadway and 18th Street.
After ten years of having the right store at the wrong location, U.S. president Emmanuel Plat said the company finally has found its home.
"There's not a single customer who doesn't love the new store," he said as he helped unpack cartons during the soft opening period that began in mid-April, "and they are happy not to have to schlep to the old store."
That old store was on First Avenue and 59th Street under the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge and while it was a striking design, it proved to be difficult to get to for most shoppers.
"We were in the wrong place," Plat said. "You basically had to spend two to three hours when you wanted to go to that store. But where we are now there are many other stores in the area."
One of them is of course ABC, which is arguably the largest home furnishings store in New York City and a destination onto itself for design-savvy customers.
And while the new store tops out at 8,500-square feet versus the 22,000 square feet of the original location, Plat said the projection is for this store to do more business than before.
That's good because Terence Conran sees this shop-in-shop format as a new strategy for the company worldwide.
"We very much hope that our new ABC destination will encourage other department stores throughout America to approach us to open similar sized franchise shops," Conran said. "We recently opened in Ireland at Arnotts Dublin store with huge success which encourages us to believe we could do something similar in important cities throughout America."
While Conran has shops in Europe and Japan, the New York location has been its sole outpost in the U.S. Those with a long memory can recall the original Conran's operation of the 1980s and 1990s that had many stores, but it passed from control of its namesake and eventually went out of business.
The Conran Shop is much more upscale than the old operation, and this new location is also something different from the East Side store. Plat said when they were planning the new location, "We asked 'what do we stand for and what does ABC stand for?'"
With ABC's extensive bed and bath areas, Plat decided to largely eliminate those departments in the new store, as well as childrens, and focus on what he considers more "masculine' categories like electronics, small tech-oriented gifts and lighting. And while the new store is barely a third the size of the old location, 80 percent of the furniture it carried is represented here.
About a quarter of the product mix is brand new, including additions to the company's Well Considered line of opening price-point, more basic merchandise.
Plat said the new store is still going through its shakedown period, but already he sees how things have changed. "We have a totally different profile for our customers here.
"You definitely feel like you are downtown."